Lost in Fitzrovia: Green Streets cycling routes fail to impress

Reviewed by Linus Rees

A cyclist riding in heavy traffic.

Cycling south along Gower Street in the rain. Cyclists share a poor road surface with fast-moving motor traffic.

Green Streets Fitzrovia is a new initiative by Camden Council to encourage walking and cycling in Fitzrovia. One of the things they have produced is a street map with a guide to walking and cycling routes. There is also information about places of interest and some local shops. The maps have been made available in shops all over the Camden part of Fitzrovia. As a cyclist I was keen to explore the two cycling routes described on the map. I made three short videos to show how I got on.

Route G describes a journey of discovery starting in Oxford Street and cycling up Rathbone Place into Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Street, then turning east then finally north up Gower Street to Euston Square underground station.

I didn’t think it was possible to do this route because it involved going up a couple of one-way streets the wrong way. But I was assured by the marketing people at Woof London that it had been recommended by local cyclists and had been checked by Camden Council. So even after more than 15 years cycling around Fitzrovia, I thought maybe I can learn something.

Since there are plenty of Cycle Hire stations in Fitzrovia I thought it would be a good idea to try the route on a Boris Bike. There are hire stations close to the start of the route in Soho Square and also near the end of the route near Euston Square underground station. Closest to me is the hire station in Scala Street. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it to work. I tried twice and gave up. This is not the first time I’ve had a problem with the Cycle Hire stations. So I decided to use my own fixed-gear bicycle to follow the route.

I cycled down to the start of the route in Oxford Street and prepared to join the Route G as recommend on the map. Sure enough there was a “No Entry” sign at the entrance to Rathbone Place because it is a one way street for most of its length. But I saw another cyclist travelling north up it, so I followed suit. If I got caught by the plod I was going to wave my Green Streets Fitzrovia map at them as evidence that it is my right to travel against the flow.

After safely travelling north up Rathbone Place, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Street, then turning right to join the segregated cycling lane going east along Maple Street, then University Street I arrived at the junction with Gower Street. According to the map I can turn north up Gower Street and continue my journey to Euston Square underground Station.

The trouble is, Gower Street is a one-way street with three lanes of heavy traffic going southbound. Even I am not going to try to ride against all that traffic.

However, I was at a convenient place to start the other recommended cycling route: Route E, south along Gower Street. But this is a route I rarely do and for good reason. Apart from the heavy traffic all day, the surface is very bad for cycling with a combination of steel maintenance covers and sunken tarmac in places. Cyclists do use it, but it’s not a route that I’d recommend. Route E also suggests taking a right turn heading west into Chenies Street and Store Street. But right turns are not allowed into these streets as they are one-way travelling east. Not a lot of use.

Thousands of people cycle through Fitzrovia everyday, but for much of the neighbourhood they are poorly served by disconnected cycling routes. The one way system is confusing and while some roads do allow a cycling contra-flow it is difficult to navigate the area unless you have a lot of local knowledge. Both Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street are barriers and are unpleasant for cycling.

It is much easier to make short journeys around Fitzrovia on foot. I rarely cycle within Fitzrovia as it is so small an area you are never more than 10 to 15 minutes walking time from any of its streets. But the amount of through-traffic and motor vehicles parked clogging up our streets make the place a poor environment for walkers. If we are going to encourage more cycling and walking in Fitzrovia, we need a better cycling and walking infrastructure and better directions than are on this map. It is more likely to deter people than encourage them to walk or cycle.

We contacted Woof London about the map and cycle routes and they told us they had made a mistake and that the routes would be corrected before being re-published in mid-February.

Green Streets Fitzrovia has a page on Facebook. More on cycling in London at Cyclists in the City, As Easy As Riding A Bike, and Londoners on Bikes.

8 Comments on Lost in Fitzrovia: Green Streets cycling routes fail to impress

  1. They “had made a mistake”. Is that as in “we don’t give a *#$? it’s only cyclists”?

  2. The Green streets much like the so-called ‘super highways’ are more about marketing than real change. There are no cycle lanes here or cyclist preference over cars but simply away from the main road they will have less pollution. Green way is a marketing term, which although not so bad an idea, it overly represents the reality.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to review our Green Streets map. We acknowledge the directional mistake on the cycling route G and are correcting this.

    Green Streets was created to encourage people to walk and cycle more in Fitzrovia, by providing advice, knowledge and tips about the local area. Through detailed discussions with the local community, we discovered that by sharing knowledge of the area – the best journeys, local independent businesses, art galleries, cafes and public spaces, i.e. the hidden gems, alongside the benefits of walking and cycling (money, health, environment, etc) people are much more likely to walk or cycle rather than use motorised transport.

    The Green Streets map identifies various routes to walk and cycle along, as well as hidden gems and is a rich source of information for anyone wanting to know the area better. The map is part of a campaign that includes a Facebook site, a community of walkers and cyclists, recruitment of local green champions and promotion through a list of fantastic local businesses.

    We prefer to focus on the positive benefits that a campaign like Green Streets can bring to the area, the community and the local independent economy, who are fully supportive of the opportunities that this brings them.

    As such an active member of the Fitzrovia community, maybe you would like to become a green champion for the campaign – we’d love to have you on board.

    Woof London

  4. ” They “had made a mistake”. ” – Yep
    but more likely they were more interested in doing as little as possible for their fee.
    2 cycle routes – both requiring cycling up one way streets, 3 in one and 2 in the other !!
    – Route E down the busiest road in the area, with over 100 busses an hour,
    – Route G ‘recommended by local cyclists as safer, quieter roads’ – one assumes these must belong to the ‘ignore road traffic rules’ brigade rather than being responsible cyclists if they exist.

    So a quick acknowledgement of gross incompetence from Mr Farmer but I do not think I will be following any of his ” advice, knowledge and tips about the local area ” either in Fitzrovia or any other ‘Green Street’ / Puma marketing leaflets

  5. Hmmm, I think there’s a danger of being overly negative about this. You’ve picked up some errors on a map – well done – but should that discredit the idea of encouraging people in Fitzrovia to discover independent shops, support local businesses and appreciate the benefits of walking and cycling?
    One of the benefits of the Green Streets campaign would hopefully be to facilitate better cycling in the area, which it does need as pointed out in the article – T Court Road and Gower Street are definitely not cycle friendly at the moment. The campaign could be a good way to illustrate the advantages of some investment in cycling infrastructure, the Facebook page has some interesting discussion about this point.

  6. I think you may be missing the point a bit here – and instead of focusing on the negative, surely it would be better to encourage and support this campaign which is only trying to help and improve the area!
    As I understand it, Green Streets is not about telling people where they should be cycling, but more about connecting the community & people coming together to promote the area & local businesses. Walking & cycling around the local area are of course part of it, but it’s not just about following a set cycle route – the idea is to discover hidden places off the beaten track.
    Surely we should welcome and encourage campaigns like this one, that aim to help our local area….?

    • @CherryJ It’s a strange thing to say when the Green Streets map is called a “Walking and Cycling Map of Fitzrovia.”

      • I don’t think it’s particularly strange to say that the main aim of the campaign is not about telling people where to cycle….. the map mentions “suggested walking and cycling routes” but I don’t interpret the campaign as merely focusing on cycle routes.

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